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Of the 2.7 million people in Australia with a Certificate III or above in a STEM field in 2010-11, around 2.1 million (78%) were in paid employment; a similar proportion to those with non-STEM qualifications (77%). People with university level STEM qualifications were more likely to be employed (82%) than those whose highest STEM qualification was at the vocational level (76%). Workers with higher level STEM qualifications accounted for 18% of the 11.5 million people employed in Australia at the time.
Some insight into the role of STEM skills in the Australian economy can be gained by looking at the types of jobs held by those with higher level STEM qualifications. At the broadest level it is apparent that the majority of employed people with STEM qualifications tend to be in the higher skill occupation groups such as Technicians and trades workers (28%), Professionals (28%) and Managers (16%).
EMPLOYED PEOPLE WITH STEM QUALIFICATIONS, BY OCCUPATION (MAJOR GROUP), 2010-11
There was a marked distinction between the occupation profile of people with university level STEM qualifications, and those whose highest STEM qualifications were at the vocational level. More than half (56%) of those with university level STEM qualifications in the workforce were employed as Professionals, with a further 19% employed as Managers, and only 7% employed as Technicians and trades workers. By contrast, of those whose highest STEM qualification was at the vocational level, the most common occupation group was Technicians and trades workers (41%), with fewer employed as Managers (15%) or Professionals (11%).
The occupation profile of people with higher level STEM qualifications also varied according to STEM field:
A slightly more detailed picture can be found by examining the sub-major level of occupation. At this level, the 10 most common occupation groups accounted for almost two-thirds (64%) of those with higher level STEM qualifications who were employed in 2010-11. The table below shows that the most common occupation group was Design, engineering, science, and transport professionals, accounting for 10% (most of whom were engineers or scientists) of the STEM qualified workforce. This was followed by Specialist managers (10%) and Automotive and engineering trades workers (9%).
PEOPLE WITH STEM QUALIFICATIONS, EMPLOYMENT CHARACTERISTICS, BY COMMON STEM OCCUPATION GROUPS(a), 2010–11
(a) Occupation classification based on The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) Sub-major Groups.
(b) A STEM qualification was in the same field as current job, or was relevant or highly relevant to current job
Source: ABS Survey of Learning and Work, 2010-11.
Of the 2.1 million people with higher level STEM qualifications who were employed in 2010-11, around 1.6 million (76%) reported that they were working in a job that was either in the same field, or was relevant to at least one of their STEM qualifications. By comparison, 83% of those with non-STEM qualifications reported working in a job that was either in the same field or relevant to the one of their non-STEM qualifications.
Even within the most common occupations held by those with higher level STEM qualifications, there were varying degrees to which people felt those qualifications were relevant to their job. There were a number of occupations for which almost all workers reported that at least one of the STEM qualifications was relevant. These include Design, engineering, science, and transport professionals (97%), ICT professionals (96%), and Automotive, engineering and trades workers (96%). Among Specialist managers, the second largest occupation group among those with STEM qualifications, 81% reported that a STEM qualification was relevant to their job. By contrast, two-thirds (66%) of Business, human resources and marketing professionals and just over one third (36%) of those employed as Road and rail drivers indicated that a STEM qualifications was relevant.
Finally, we can assess the impact of STEM qualifications across the labour market by examining the concentration of STEM qualified workers across each occupation group (i.e. employed people with higher level STEM qualifications as a proportion of the total number in each sub-major occupation group). Of the 23 occupation groups with at least 25,000 STEM qualified people, there were five in which at least half of all workers had STEM qualifications. These were ICT professionals (65%), Automotive, engineering and trades workers (63%), Electrotechnology and telecommunications trades workers (63%), Design, engineering, science and transport professionals (59%), and Engineering, ICT and science technicians (54%). These occupation groups accounted for five of the six most common groups for STEM qualified workers. On the other hand, STEM qualified workers made up around a quarter (28%) of all Specialist managers and only a small proportion of Business, human resource and marketing professionals (14%), and Education professionals (14%)  .
RECENT GROWTH IN COMMON STEM OCCUPATION GROUPS
As the Survey of Learning and Work was run for the first time in 2010-11, it is not possible to examine changes in the number and proportion of STEM qualified workers across occupations from this data source. However, some indication of the growing importance of STEM skills in the labour market can be gauged by analysing data from the Census of population and housing to assess how recent growth in common STEM occupations compares with that in other occupations.
Between 2006 and 2011, the total number of people (both with and without higher level STEM qualifications) employed in the 10 most common STEM occupations (at the sub-major level) grew by 14%. This was greater than the 9% growth across all other occupation groups. The number of people employed as Design, engineering, science, and transport professionals increased by 23% between 2006 and 2011. There was also strong growth among ICT professionals (19%) and Engineering, ICT and science technicians (19%). The level of growth in each of the top 10 STEM occupation groups exceeded the average growth of other occupations over this period (9%), with the sole exception of Automotive and engineering trades workers, which grew at a rate of 4%.
GROWTH IN COMMON STEM OCCUPATION GROUPS, 2006 TO 2011
Source: ABS 2006 and 2011 Census of Population and Housing
Given their vital role in guiding the next generation of STEM graduates, there is particular interest in the level of STEM qualifications among Australia's education workforce. In 2010-11, there were an estimated 389,300 people employed as school teachers in Australia, accounting for around 3% of the total number of people employed in Australia.
Around one in ten (11%) of those employed as school teachers in 2010-11 had a Certificate III or above in a STEM field. The vast majority (87%) of these had university level STEM qualifications. Around one in five (19%) secondary school teachers had STEM qualifications, with all of these being at the university level.
 Education professionals include School teachers, Vocational education teachers, University lecturers and tutors, Education advisers and reviewers, Private tutors and teachers, as well as Teachers of English to speakers of other languages.
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